How to Hire for the Skills You Want in a Sales Rep

By Selling Power Editors

Sometimes companies are so wrapped up in finding sales candidates that they forget to identify the unique skills and characteristics for each position, says Louise Kursmark, consultant and coauthor of How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time. Sure, salespeople need to be outgoing and driven those qualities are a given. But what about qualities that people need to have to fit in with the way your company and sales team operate? Here are four tips to help sales managers make better hiring decisions.

1. Gather information.
Before recruiting, start with the job description, and then further define the position. Bring in a hiring manager early in the process to get feedback. For example, does the candidate need to have strong prospecting skills or have to know how to call on high-level executives? Ask people who have held the position or people who have worked with others in this position what makes a top performer. This will allow you to uncover some important skills you may have missed. For example, you may find out that it’s important for him or her to be good at following up.

2. Tap contacts.
Kursmark suggests asking the candidate’s contacts for assessments about behavior and performance. What made this candidate different and successful or not? You can also ask behavior-based questions, such as, “Can you tell me about a time in this job when this person faced a significant obstacle?” Then you can use the same question during your interview process with the actual candidate and compare the answers.

3. Align with company objectives.
Kursmark also suggests reviewing the long-term objectives of your company. “You want to make a hire that’s going to be right, for now but also for the future,” she says. “Are you looking to grow in a certain area? Are certain types of business becoming more important? If so, can you enhance that hire by bringing in people skills, rather than fundamental skills? You need to think long-term, so when your company gets there, you’ll have the talent on board already,” says Kursmark. “You’ve laid the foundation.”

4. Consider culture.
Many people leave because they don’t fit in an organization, says Kursmark. “Cultural fit is as important as a skill,” she says. “You can’t teach people to work in an environment where they don’t fit.” How can you evaluate a culture fit before you hire? Kursmark suggests developing behavior-based interview questions designed to assess a culture match or mismatch. Ask questions about preferred work style and what is important to the candidate. Does he or she value flexibility? Unlimited income? Work and life balance? Look at the candidate’s long-term goals and whether or not your company would provide a good opportunity to reach them.